In this most recent flare-up of salacious Roman Catholic controversy — ranks of pedophile or hebephile priests, a sexually predatory Cardinal, cover-ups at perhaps the highest levels — I can’t help wondering: Has anyone in the RC hierarchy recognized the gargantuan platform for communicating biblical wisdom which this otherwise dreadful situation has handed their organization?
If the goal of the Church of Rome is to reach the world through the preaching of God’s insights for every corner of life, then this is a no-brainer; opportunity-gold: Regardless of what individual church leaders have done, it can announce anew to a global audience momentarily fixated on it precisely what the Creator has commanded regarding all-things-sexual. Saying it loudly, unambiguously, to the mortification of those who were supposed to uphold it and didn’t — but saying it.
If, alternatively, the Catholic Church’s objective is merely to stay in business, to survive, if only just barely, while simultaneously making as few waves as possible? Well, something akin to what the world is currently observing would be the likely course: Pope Francis variously defensive, muddled, halting; too many of his subordinates following suit.
Seems like for a while now the Vatican line on below-the-belt issues has been apologetic and nubilous: Is homosexuality permissible? Are people “born gay”? Erotic activity outside of real marriage — tolerable? What about heterosexual promiscuity? Is that topic regularly, convictingly broached from local pulpits, by church prelates or the Pontiff?
Jesus’ overturning the tables in the Temple or “standing and crying out” (John 7:37) this ain’t. The Savior regularly and attention-grabbingly rocked the civil and religious conventions of His day. Risky? I suppose so, but remember: He transformed the universe in the process.
An especially ardent early follower of Christ, Paul the Apostle, plainly agreed with that approach. He once wrote, “[I]f the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8, NKJV).
Amidst this exposure of unconscionable acts within the Catholic Church, I ask: Where’s that organization’s certain sound, blazoning that the Holy God Who invented sex and designed it to be pleasurable also calls persons to engage in it strictly according to His guidelines? That notwithstanding those concupiscent clerics, pervert priests or their shrinking superiors, His boundaries don’t change? That these ordained-but-disordered souls provide, in fact, a glaring example of how things are not supposed to be?
The curious hear these allegations and respond, understandably, “Eww, gross!”. Church spokespersons ought to second that opinion: “They certainly are! God thinks so, too, and here’s why …”. When alleged men of God actually act like they have confidence in the supposed tenets of their faith — versus retreating into shiftiness or changing-the-subject — the reaction from some skeptics can often be surprising. Onlookers can end up being exhilarated, even inspired. Despite whatever shortcomings or infamies are laid bare, scoffers can be persuaded to grant a listen to “religious” types.
For an excruciating snapshot of the opposite state of affairs, consider Ireland. As Michael Brendan Dougherty has written at National Review, in a flash that nation flipped on a particularly incendiary matter. Heretofore, “for many pro-lifers [it] was the model for legal protection of unborn human life in the Western world, [but] is now the first nation in Europe or the Americas to bring in abortion by popular referendum. And … Irish voters did this while knowing full well what they were doing.”
Indeed, in case you hadn’t heard, the Emerald Isle — overwhelmingly Roman Catholic — is now ambitiously pro-abortion.
The explanation? The Irish Catholic Church, embroiled in a rolling litany of monstrous scandals over the past several decades,
has lost its authority on moral questions … The Church in Ireland has experienced the humiliation of having its sins exposed without ever getting around to the penance. It carries on … but is so fearful of exciting public wrath that it hardly ventures to do anything in Irish life that might draw attention. Even if it had moral authority, the Church would be terrified of exercising it.
It’s predictable, then, that, according to Cal Thomas and the Irish Times: “Between 1991 and 2011, the numbers of atheists, agnostics, and those with no religion in Ireland increased more than four-fold to 277,237. This group included 14,769 children of primary school age and 14,478 of secondary school age.”
Events in Ireland confirm: an institution radiating the hand-wringing vibe that its core principles are an embarrassment can only end up pathetic — and irrelevant.
And that way headeth modern-day Roman Catholicism in America.
It’s ironic that anytime darkness intrudes upon the human enterprise, however ghoulish that darkness may be, the stage is automatically set for light to do what it does best: blaze into action and shine. So, evil raises its head? Truth-speakers must rise up, as well. Hideousness blares? Trumpet-sounders must make heard the sonorous expression of whatever is the reality-rooted answer.
Terrible as the crimes and conspiracies of the accused ecclesiasticals may be, they don’t negate God’s glorious perspectives on male/female relationships and sensual concerns. If anything, these much-publicized and loathsome breaches of His mandates and the havoc wreaked by them in so many lives underscore it’s probably a good idea to pay attention to God’s counsel when it comes to sexual matters across-the-board: sex was intended to be a sacred expression of love between husband and wife, not a mere plaything for whoever experiences a libidinal urge. Homosexual behavior? Not acceptable. Two strangers or even friends fooling around because, hey, why not? Not copacetic with the God Who fashioned human beings in His image. Adultery, pornography, incest, rape, lust? A debauching of sex’s divine purpose.
The All-Knowing Creator of All, mind you, revealed all this long, long ago. The duty of those who claim to represent Him is to reiterate it at every juncture, taking advantage of any opening to clarify: “This is what God has to say …”. Not staring at their shoes, not hemming-and-hawing and looking twitchily around the room, not apologizing for what they believe, not switching over to radio silence on the truth — instead, assertively announcing it.
So far, Roman Catholic grandees have opted largely for the former, not the latter, strategy. As George MacDonald lamented nearly a century-and-a-half ago, “Theologians have done more to hide the gospel of Christ than any of its adversaries.”
The current RC horror presents a forum for introducing 21st-century hedonists to a crystalline enunciation of what God says about sex. Alas, so far in that forum the Roman See has been either mum or tongue-tied; or absent altogether.
Image: CCO Creative Commons; Excerpted from: https://pixabay.com/en/angel-sculpture-silence-marble-713733/